The composition of this column is derived from a number of sources. Occasionally a simple object will be the key.
I was rummaging through scraps of paper and came across a paper napkin my Uncle Lee had left behind. Now yellowed with age, edge torn and barely legible, I remember its origin.
We had left the house early Saturday morning for a bit of fishing before chores and favors.
Uncle Lee was forever getting things done in the neighborhood that others never seemed to accomplish. He owned a small tract of land that supplied most of his needs but more often his bartering skills paid larger dividends. Today was one of his paydays. Joe Cannel lived across town and had asked my uncle to lend him a hand.
A tree had fallen across Joe's driveway and needed to be moved.
I watched, amazed at the skills the two old gentlemen showed, respectful but neither giving ground. The tree was moved, Uncle Lee got the firewood and a free pass to the lower 10 -- a sloping pasture which held a fantastic fish pond at its base.
There were stories of big bass, slab sided bluegill and huge bream forever told among folks in the county. Joe guarded this pond and few if any were given permission to fish its banks. Until now, Uncle Lee had gotten the upper hand.
When the tools were put away we stopped at Levitt's diner for a late breakfast. Uncle Lee told me if I kept things quiet we may still have time to drop by the lower 10 before heading home. I agreed.
Things have a way of changing rapidly. When young minds fail to comprehend, country manners save questions for another time.
Another favor came as Uncle Lee paid our breakfast tab. Miss Riley had a flat tire, no jack and no spare; fishing would have to wait.
It was then Uncle Lee wiped his hands, jotted a few notes on a napkin and quickly shoved it in the pocket of his overalls.
He dropped me off on his way to the garage to pick up a tire for Miss Riley. He waved the napkin out the window as he drove away. I knew there was a story to be told the next time we met, but we never did.
Uncle Lee passed away the next morning. His truck was sighted along the road to the lower 10, a search found him along the bank of the pond. Fishing rod baited, a single fish on his stringer and a smile on his face.
And the napkin, still tucked in his pocket read: "Son, you will meet three personalities in your life. One will make things happen, another will watch things happen and the third will wonder what happened. Choose your path wisely, stay true to a cause and get to doing what it is that needs doing."
For now, that is enough. I think of him often and smile whenever a napkin crosses the table. He is missed.